This night view shows the Norris Dam rising from the Clinch River in Norris, Tenn., July 22, 1935. Powerful spotlights placed on and above the dam enable construction work to continue night and day of the Tennessee Valley Authority's project.
"Meeting the Challenge from Totalitarianism: The Tennessee Valley Authority as a Global Model for Liberal Development, 19331945"
Journal Article, International History Review, volume 32, issue 1, pages 47-67
Author: David Ekbladh, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 20092010
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
"The essayist Odette Keun accused fellow liberals in the 1930s of being 'spineless' in failing to meet the ideological challenges from Fascism and Communism. Of French birth and Dutch parentage, Keun, an avid traveller, was one of an international group of liberals preoccupied with world affairs and alarmed by the rise of totalitarian ideologies. Her sketch of liberal society paired private property and individual initiative with 'resourceful' state intervention that protected the individual against excessive control by either business or government and buttressed freedoms of conscience and speech. At a time when such basic values were threatened, and the global economic crisis had lessened the credibility of liberalism, liberals had to show that the social, political, and economic system they advocated was able to raise standards of living as their rivals claimed to do, and appeared to have done by harnessing two catalysts of modernity, science and technology, and by exploiting the increasing acceptance of government intervention and planning typical of Communist and Fascist regimes. Such statism challenged the foundations of liberalism: individual rights and private property. As this liberal reconstruction of societies increasingly referred to by the early 1940s as 'modernization' was given a new role in global affairs, the international debate intensified over the preferred means to this modern end.
Keun, in 1937, found her rallying point for liberals not in the League of Nations, the Red Cross, or any of the other established international institutions, but in Knoxville, Tennessee, the headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The result of an amalgam of ideas and assumptions worked out by various constituencies internationally over preceding decades, the TVA was a unique variant of development. Claiming to combine the best elements of planning, technology, and social control, it symbolized, for Keun, the way in which a participatory liberal democracy could embrace modernization, to parry the influence of Fascist and Communist models of development, while avoiding the perils of statism.
The TVA and development programmes like it were tied to a shift in US geopolitics...."
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